The Roman Catholic Russian ancestors of Aunt Irene, the central character in Alice Thomas Ellis's new novel, were persecuted and forced to flee to the Ukraine, Lithuania, Austria or as the story-tellers would have it, across 27 lands and 30 countries until they came to the 27th Kingdom. For the good, kind and infinitely friendly Aunt Irene, her handsome but wicked nephew, Kyril, and Focus, a cat of alarming intelligence, this is Dancing Master House, a minute dwelling in the Chelsea. Two gossips, Mrs. O'Connor and Mrs. Mason, one dead common with criminal connections, the other an impoverished lady of the upper classes, clean for and take care of the needs of Aunt Irene and Kyril. From Wales, Irene's sister, the Mother Superior, sends Valentine, a beautiful, young West Indian postulant, ostensibly to test her vocation but really because of the embarrassing discovery that Valentine has miraculous powers. The story runs between angels and demons in a style which epitomizes the refreshing eccentricities of English humor.
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The 27th Kingdom is as mystical as it is malicious, a dark, surreal comedy about secrecy and self-deception. Chelsea, circa 1954, has its fair share of chatty bohemians, and Dancing Master House is positively overflowing with them. Its principal inhabitants are Aunt Irene, who fancies herself a "patron of the astonishing" and has a great fondness for horsemeat, and her vile nephew. Kyril is annoyingly handsome and has an entirely bad character. When a beautiful, black, and almost entirely silent postulant arrives for a brief stay, she quietly throws a theological spanner into the works--exposing and yet somehow protecting the two, and several other Londoners, from their worldly problems. Valentine doesn't so much need to test her vocation as to quell her miracle-working tendencies. At least according to the Mother Superior of her Welsh convent, who happens to be Aunt Irene's sister. Can this "vivid and alien" being, however, save Aunt Irene from a showdown with the taxman (who may be someone else entirely)? In the meantime, will Kyril manage to seduce her? And will Focus, the house's pillowy Persian, ever get near the rat that's been taunting him? Pleasingly, this pussycat has more insight than most of Ellis's humans, particularly when it comes to Aunt Irene's human kitten:
He'd morosely witnessed Kyril's numberless conquests, comparing him with the neighbourhood's dominant tom, a scratty looking object who stalked Cheyne Row. Focus had been made a eunuch for the sake of the sweetness of the air in Dancing Master House. He was glad, because it enabled him to take a removed and measured view of affairs--human, feline and, indeed, divine.As she moves among her main characters, and as things go from mad to worse, Ellis constructs a fractured fable of good and evil. Not that she's interested in whacking us over the head. After all, as Aunt Irene's sister puts it: "How the vulgar loved portents, prodigies and the untoward. Only the religious knew how embarrassing they could be--and quite beside the point." This 1982 novel may not be as elegant as some of Ellis's other books. On the other hand, it's hard to resist a knowing, noisy exploration of the perfections of silence and the mysteries of belief. --Kerry Fried From the Publisher:
Nominated for The Booker Prize when first published in 1982, this is a funny, eerie, surprising tale, set in London’s Chelsea and featuring an array of eccentric characters who encounter everyday situations that are suffused with otherworldly associations. With a new Afterword by James Mustich, Jr.
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Book Description Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd, 1982. Book Condition: Good. 1St Edition. N/A. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP90729048
Book Description Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd, 1982. Book Condition: Good. 1St Edition. N/A. Ships from the UK. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP94435548
Book Description Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd, 1982. Book Condition: Fair. This is an ex-library book and may have the usual library/used-book markings inside.This book has hardback covers. In fair condition, suitable as a study copy. Dust Jacket in fair condition. Bookseller Inventory # 4533138
Book Description Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd. Hardcover. Book Condition: Good. Bookseller Inventory # TT01364932B
Book Description Duckworth, London, 1982. Hard Cover. Book Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good. First Edition. Moderate library markings, minor wear. Intact well protected dust jacket. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Ex-Library. Bookseller Inventory # 015389
Book Description Duckworth, 1982. Hard Cover. Book Condition: Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good -. First Edition. 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Usual library markings. Jacket protected in plastic sleeve. Ex-Library. Bookseller Inventory # 041880
Book Description Duckworth, 1982. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good. 1st Edition....... UK first impression of this uncommon Booker shortlisted novel. The book is VG with some bumps to top corners in VG unclipped jacket with some toning to egdes and a few spots visible from the inside. Duckworth 1982. Book. Bookseller Inventory # 2133272547
Book Description Gerald Duckworth and Co, London, 1982. Hardcover. Book Condition: Near Fine. Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine. First Edition. 8vo - over 6 ¾" - 9¾" Tall. This is a Near Fine Copy of this Book in a Near Fine Dust-Jacket,with no chips or tears to the d/j,Not price clipped,and this copy has NO previous names or inscriptions present.There is just one small pen number of 482 to the top edge of the front endpaper.Lovely clean copy internally of this booker longlist novel and the Author's uncommon third novel 8vo 159pp First Edition 1st Impression 8vo - over 6 ¾" - 9¾" Tall. Bookseller Inventory # 69286
Book Description London; Duckworth;, 1982. First edition, first printing of author's fourth novel. Fine in fine dustjacket. Bookseller Inventory # 18932
Book Description London: Duckworth & Co., (1982) dj, 1982. SIGNED hardcover first edition - First printing. The third novel by this highly praised English author, this was short-listed for the Booker Prize. "Set in London in 1954, it follows the adventures of Aunt Irene and her nephew Kyril when Valentine, a postulant at the convent where IreneÕs sister is the reverend mother, comes to stay with them, ostensibly to test her vocation in the world. . . . Valentine is very much an outsider: black, Caribbean, quiet, and devoutly religious. The injection of this alien into Aunt IreneÕs Chelsea home becomes the catalyst for many comic situations. , , [but] cutting through the mirth are grotesque, even macabre elements, including accidental deaths and suicide" (Marian Crowe).SIGNED on the title page. Ellis, the wife of the publisher Colin Haycraft, and the fiction editor at Duckworth, was both a true Bohemian and a fiercely devout Catholic. 159 pp Fine in fine dust jacket. Uncommon signed. Bookseller Inventory # 58654